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Stress Rises as Finals Begin

Brooke Burger
Managing Editor

   With the end of the semester approaching swiftly, students may feel overburdened with their course loads in addition to preparing for finals week. Along with the upcoming holidays, stress levels at the end of fall semester hit all-time highs. 

   “The pressure is on,” said Eric Bell, a sophomore at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. “I have insomnia; I’m just up studying, studying, studying.”  

   The University of Iowa Counseling Services defines stress as “any demand (force, pressure or strain) placed on the body and the body’s reaction to it.”  Though sometimes associated with negative connotations, stress is a common and normal emotion that everyone experiences. 

   According to the Counseling and Mental Health Center at the University of Texas in Austin, “We often think of stress as the result of external events; however, the events themselves are not necessarily stressful. It is the way in which each individual interprets and reacts to an event that produces stress.” 

   While everyone stresses due to the daily grind of life, this proves particularly true for college students, who try to balance school, work, social activities and families – leaving little time for rest and relaxation.  

   Director of UAM’s Counseling and Testing Center Laura Hughes said, “College is one of the more stressful times of someone’s life, and when you add finals and the holidays to that, it can be overwhelming.” 

   Though stress can have positive effects, if not managed properly, it can become harmful to an individual’s well-being and physical health. The amount of stress does not necessarily distinguish between healthy and unhealthy stress levels. Since individuals experience stress at different intensities and for different reasons, the major difference between healthy and unhealthy stress is the ability to recognize stress and manage it. 

   The first and most important step of stress management includes recognizing a rise in stress levels. According to the Brooklyn College Personal Counseling Program, reactions to stress can affect an individual’s physical, emotional, behavioral and, or cognitive states.  

   When asked about finals, sophomore nursing major, Michelle Donigan said, “Don’t even say that word. [Stress from finals] makes my stomach and my head hurt.” 

   While reactions to stress are unique to the individual, some common signs and symptoms of stress include:

 

Physical

Emotional

Behavioral

Cognitive

ˇ   Tight muscles

ˇ   Cold/sweaty hands

ˇ   Headaches

ˇ   Back problems

ˇ   Stiffness in neck

ˇ   Sleep disturbances

ˇ   Stomach aches

ˇ   Weak immune system

ˇ   Fatigue

ˇ   Rapid breathing

ˇ   Pounding heart

ˇ   Trembling

ˇ   Dry mouth

ˇ   Eye strain

ˇ   Dizziness

ˇ   Anxiety

ˇ   Irritability

ˇ   Fear

ˇ   Moodiness

ˇ   Embarrassment

ˇ   Depression

ˇ   Tension

ˇ   Feeling down/low

ˇ   Nervous or jumpy

ˇ   Hopelessness

ˇ   Dread

ˇ   Boredom

ˇ   Worry

ˇ   Listlessness

ˇ   Withdrawing

ˇ   Working harder

ˇ   Blaming others

ˇ   Fighting

ˇ   Denial

ˇ   Isolation

ˇ   Smoking more

ˇ   Drinking more

ˇ   Drug abuse

ˇ   Crying

ˇ   Grinding teeth

ˇ   Clenching jaws

ˇ   Sleeping more/less

ˇ   Eating more/less

ˇ   Problems concentrating

ˇ   Self-criticism

ˇ   Problems making decisions

ˇ   Forgetfulness

ˇ   Mental disorganization

ˇ   Preoccupation

ˇ   Repetitive thoughts

Sources:
Brooklyn College Personal Counseling Program
University of Texas at Austin Counseling & Mental Health Center

   Once an individual recognizes their rising stress levels, they can then begin to implement effective stress management techniques to reduce those stress levels. However, just as the intensity and reasons behind stress vary from person to person, so do the management techniques. Several techniques for stress management include:

Breath.

Stress can cause shallow breathing, which causes an increase in muscle tension due to less oxygen in the blood stream. Shallow breathing can also cause headaches and anxiety. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth and count slowly while exhaling.

 

Manage Time.

College students have a multitude of activities going on including class, work, activities, sports, clubs, studying and so on. Planning ahead can help eliminate problems with double booking and over-scheduling. Make a list of tasks and complete them in order of priority. However, be careful not to overwork. Also, be sure to schedule time for recreation as well as work. Too much studying at once can inhibit your ability to comprehend and retain information. Make sure to schedule breaks in order to avoid burnouts.

 

Find Ways to Relax.

Find a hobby or favorite activity and allow yourself time to enjoy it. Listening to music, reading, painting, watching movies, meditating – the possibilities are endless. Taking time to enjoy your favorite activity can have extremely positive effects on your outlook, and they take your mind off the stressors in your life.

 

Get Physical.

Aerobic exercise can help reduce anxiety and tension. Regular forms of exercise such as walking, running, sports or swimming are effective ways to burn off negative energy, but it is important to do something you enjoy. Working in the garden, washing your car or playing with a pet can also be effective ways to work out negative energy.

 

Take Care of Your Body.

Putting yourself on a regular sleeping and eating schedule can help balance your body and keep you healthy. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals at regular intervals throughout the day starting with breakfast. Do not overdo the caffeine and sugar, which can cause you to “crash” later on. Setting yourself on a regular sleep schedule will also help make sure you get plenty of sleep every night. Smoking too much can also cause higher stress levels, as it is a stimulant.

 

Stay Positive.

Try not to always take things too seriously and try to keep a positive and optimistic outlook on life. Remember to laugh and realize that one bad incident does not have to ruin your whole day. Counting your blessings and good fortunes can be a good way to boost your happiness.

 

Talk.

Bottling up emotions can cause frustration and produce higher stress levels. Share your feelings with a friend, family member, professor, religious leader or counselor. Talking can help take your mind off your problems, and other people can often offer a different outlook and great advice. Writing in a journal can also have the same mind-clearing effects. Do not be afraid to open up to someone if you are struggling with stress management. Everyone experiences stress overload – you are not alone.

Sources:
Brooklyn College Personal Counseling Program
University of Iowa Counseling Service
University of Texas at Austin Counseling & Mental Health Center

 

   Since stress is a very personal condition, it is up to the individual to recognize rising stress levels, identify the sources of stress and implement the proper management of that stress based on their preferences. While stress is personal, several venues offer services and advice for dealing with stress. 

   UAM’s Counseling and Testing Center offers a variety of free and confidential counseling and testing services to the UAM community. The center’s office hours are Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Students can make an appointment by telephone at (870) 460-1454. However, the center also offers drop-in counseling to accommodate students in crisis or emergency situations or for short consultations.

   The Counseling and Testing Center provides educational counseling, which offers outreach workshops and individual assistance to aid students with study skills, text anxiety, time management, stress management, conflict resolution and relationship problems among other issues. 

   The center also offers personal counseling and support services, which aide in improving personal, academic and psychological well-being of students. The center employs a trained counselor full-time to help students with any issue. The office can also provide referrals to mental health agencies in the case of crisis situations or long-term treatment. 

   Monday, Dec. 5, the center will offer a workshop entitled, “Surviving the Holiday Rollercoaster.”  The workshop will take place in the Horsfall Lobby at 7 p.m.; cookies and hot chocolate will be provided. For more information on this event or UAM’s counseling center, contact Laura Hughes at (870) 460-1454 or by e-mail at hughesl@uamont.edu

   According to Hughes, during finals week, preparation may be key in relieving undo stress. Hughes advises, “Start preparing now. Waiting until the last minute will only cause more stress.” 

   Students can access the final exam schedule by accessing this link:  http://www.uamont.edu/Schedules/. The university also provides several tutoring services that can help students prepare for their final exams. 

   Located on the second floor of Harris Hall, students can find out more information about the UAM Tutoring Services by contacting Hughes at (870) 460-1454. Gateway Student Support Services also offers tutoring to students. For more information on Gateway’s services, call (870) 460-1054. Tutoring services include: 

ˇ         Math & Science Tutoring: available Monday – Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., located in Harris Hall room 329.

ˇ         Additional Subject Areas: call 460-1454 for the list of tutoring services currently available.

ˇ         Gateway General Education Tutoring: available from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Harris Hall, Room 123.

ˇ         Intense Math Tutoring: available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., offered by Gateway Services.

ˇ         Residence Hall Tutoring: available Monday – Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

    • Monday & Thursday – Horsfall Hall, Lobby
    • Tuesday – Royer Hall, Room 132
    • Wednesday – Bankston Hall, Room 171

   Hopefully, these stress management techniques and useful resources will help students make it through the chaos of finals week. Remember to eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of sleep and prepare for exams in order to finish out the semester on top. Good luck and Godspeed.

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ŠThe Voice 2006
Revised
01/13/2008 03:18:32 PM — http://www.uamont.edu/Organizations/TheVoice/4_11/stress.htm